The world no. 1 Novak Djokovic has arrived in Doha after winning the Mubadala World Tennis Championship and with back-to-back titles here in 2016 and 2017, standing as the clear favorite to secure the opening title of the season.
Everything seemed to be perfect for Novak after the opening clash against Damir Dzumhur but he had to work much harder to halt Marton Fucsovics and Nikoloz Basilashvili, losing the opening set in both matches and struggling to move the rivals from their rivals for the most of the match.
Nonetheless, he managed to pass those tests but the 7th seed Roberto Bautista Agut proved to be too tough to handle, ousting the best player in the world 3-6, 7-6, 6-4 in two hours and 35 minutes for his second win over Novak in nine matches.
The first came in Shanghai in 2016 and the Spaniard was able to topple the great rival on another fast hard court, moving around the court beautifully and overpowering the 14-time Grand Slam champion from the baseline to secure the win and advance into his 16th ATP final.
Djokovic looked tired and flat after those two tough matches in the previous days and Bautista Agut made no mistakes in sets he won, losing serve only once and saving his best tennis for the deciding set to grab only his eighth top-10 win in a career.
Roberto won just two points more than Novak, serving at 75% and facing four break points, allowing Novak two breaks of serve. On the other hand, Djokovic had to play against eight break points but it has to be said that seven of those came in the second set when he did his best to stay in touch and close the match in the tie break.
The final set offered only one break point in the opening game and Bautista Agut converted it to gain the crucial lead, serving well in the rest of the encounter to wrap up one of his biggest wins ever. Djokovic did everything right in the opener, breaking in game two after a great rally and losing just six points on serve to clinch the set in the ninth game after a service winner.
The Serb broke at love in the seventh game of the second set after a backhand error from the Spaniard but Roberto stayed focused, breaking back in the very next game before Novak smashed his racquet in anger. Djokovic then had to work hard to stay in the set, saving three set points to reach the tie break that he lost 8-6 after a backhand error, having to play the deciding set for the third time in a row here in Doha.
Bautista Agut had the momentum on his side and he broke at the start of the final set with a forehand winner, sailing through his service games in the rest of the match to cross the finish line with a hold at 15 in game 10 after forcing an error from Novak. Semi-final result:
Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP) vs Novak Djokovic (SRB) 3-6 7-6(6) 6-4